This beautiful flag
from the American Centennial in 1876 is one of the few
38 star flags that are undoubtedly made to celebrate the
event. Aside from the fact that flags in the
medallion pattern are very rare and highly sought after,
this flag features several traits that are very uncommon
among homemade flags of the period. The flag was
made in Albany, New York by Ms. A. Whipple. Ms.
Whipple embroidered the flag in gold silk thread "A.
Whipple, Albany N.Y." It's clear from the
impeccable construction of the flag that Ms. Whipple was
an expert seamstress. The entire flag is made of
hand sewn silk. The even width of the stripes,
precision stitching, and extremely fine and beautiful
embroider is all evidence of her expertise.
Looking closely, you can see that the medallion pattern
is especially symmetrical, with five spokes radiating
from the center star and three stars in triangular
configurations each nestled into the wedges between the
spokes. The flag possesses an unusual trait that
is unique among flags in my experience--the stars
themselves are not simply stitched to the flag, but are
embroidered around their edges, resulting in a beautiful
silvery raised edge around each star.
The most striking
aspect of the flag, which immediately catches the eye,
is the finely embroidered "1776-1876" date. The
style of the font is wonderfully attractive and
perfectly fits the style of the flag and the period of
the American Centennial. The blue silk fringe sewn
to the right and bottom edges of the flag are unusual in
my experience. The silk threads of the fringe are
long, soft and hair-like. The deep navy blue of
the silk fringe perfectly matches the deep navy blue of
the canton. The flag is single-sided, and meant to
be displayed vertically, as shown here. Ms.
Whipple apparently added the silk fringe to provide
overall balance to the flag, and the effect is unique.
Silk flags from this period tend to be very brittle
because of the use of weighted silk. It's apparent
from handling this flag that it is in fact very
delicate, and if it were stressed it could cause splits
in the silk. But the flag has been maintained so
well for so many years that it is in nearly intact
condition despite the fact that it's made of weighted
silk, which is remarkable. It's difficult to do this
flag justice in pictures, but the photo below provides a
stirring glimpse of the patriotic beauty of this flag
when seen up close.